Not even COVID-19 could stop Santa from visiting students at Davila Day School this year.
Even though Santa dropped in via video call, that didn’t lessen the thrill for students to see him or see him using American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate, just like many of the students do.
“My favorite part is watching the students' faces light up when Santa comes in and greets them, especially our students who use sign language to communicate,” said Amy Kalendarian, educational audiologist at Davila. “Most of our students who use sign language do not have another opportunity to meet and communicate with Santa using their primary language.”
During his visit, Santa wished the students well and watched them open gifts that were generously donated by employees at the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) and two outside organizations.
Each student received a developmentally- and age-appropriate game and several books, including a five-minute stories book donated by SDCOE’s Juvenile Court and Community Schools, an I Spy book donated by two benefactors, and a storybook donated by SDCOE staff. Each child also received a stocking treat bag made by South County Special Education Local Area Plan (SELPA) employee Olivia Rivera. All donated items were collected, wrapped, and assembled by staff members, and parents picked the gifts up at the school Wednesday so students could open them during the visit with Santa.
For more than five years, employees at Davila and the South County SELPA have been creating this opportunity for students. They call themselves Santa’s Elves. Their energy and love for the students make it extra special for everyone involved.
Earlier this month, Kalenderian, Principal Heidi Lyon, and teachers identified gifts that were age-appropriate, suited to students' abilities, and similar in size and cost – and the request was sent out to SDCOE employees.
“Seeing the generosity of our SDCOE family, not only through donations every year, but by how quickly people jump at the chance to help, makes it all worth it," Kalendarian said.
Kalenderian and her team of elves included Dianna Nathan, Crystal Nithya, Adrienne Reed, Ansley Forestal, Eva Ibarra, Jackie Korfin, Heidi Lyon, and Olivia Rivera. They coordinated gift purchases and distribution, scheduled Zoom calls, and invited guests. Board of Education Vice President Rick Shea and South County SELPA Executive Director Russell Coronado were among the guests who dropped in.